6.19.10This issue of unity within the church is of the utmost importance to me--and had been for many years. I simply cannot fathom why Christians are so mistrustful of one another--even critical and cruel to each other. Such behaviour saddens me greatly--and does not provide a positive view of Christianity to those who are not Christians (or to those who are, as a matter of fact). How can we say we love others when we cannot offer true love to other Christians who may worship a little differently than we do?
by Mark D. Roberts
Laity Lodge Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence
A Pleasure We Need Today
READ Psalm 133:1-3
How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! [Psalm 133:1]
Psalm 133 envisions pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem to celebrate a religious festival. Though they have come from diverse places throughout the Ancient Near East, the pilgrims experience profound unity in their expectations and in their shared faith in the Lord. Psalm 133 celebrates the solidarity among God’s traveling people: “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” (133:1).
The Hebrew word translated here as “wonderful” is tob, the basic word meaning “good” or “beautiful.” The word translated as “pleasant” is na‘im. This word could be used to describe “sweet” music (Ps. 81:2) and human attractiveness (Song 1:16) as well as the beauty of God’s name (Ps. 135:3). Unity among the people of God is not just a helpful thing or a theologically appropriate thing. It is wonderful to behold and to experience. In fact, it is pleasant!
Don’t we need this sort of pleasure today?! It is far too common for Christians to experience disharmony. Sometimes our conflicts reflect significant theological disagreement. But often they flow from insignificant differences of opinion and style. No matter the cause, however, a lack of unity among God’s people is not pleasant. More importantly, it falls short of God’s intention for us (John 17:11; Eph. 4:1-6).
When conflict arises in the church, we should seek to be agents of reconciliation, people who speak the truth in love. When we experience the blessing of unity among God’s people, we should rejoice and offer thanks for this sublime pleasure.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How have you experienced harmony among the people of God? In what ways do you promote the unity of the church?
PRAYER: Gracious Lord, indeed, it is wonderful when your people live together in harmony. There is something truly precious in the unity that is based on your nature, built upon your truth, and nurtured by your Spirit.
Thank you for the times I have experienced the unity of your people. Thank you for the ways we have been focused together on your mission. Thank you for those who have put aside petty differences in order to nurture our unity in you.
O Lord, your church today is so divided! Some of these divisions are not trivial, but reflect deep theological disagreements. Other conflicts would almost be laughable except for the damage they do to your “bride” and our witness in the world. Help us, dear Lord, to be unified, not just in niceness, but in Christ, in the Gospel, in your truth, and in the presence of your Spirit. Amen.
I pray John 17 along with Jesus who prayed it for His disciples and for us as well:
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.Praying for unity and love among all,